Save A Life: 8 Signs To Recognize Self Harm

Save A Life: 8 Signs To Recognize Self Harm

It's not always as obvious as cuts on someone's wrists

Self harm is the act of intentionally hurting oneself in a way that is impulsive and not intended to be lethal. According to Mental Health America, approximately 15% of teens and adolescents report some form of self injury. This percentage increases to 17%-35% for college students. These statistics, which are already troubling, do not account for the vast number of people whose self harm goes unnoticed.

Self mutilation can take many forms. The most common form of self harm is cutting. However, other methods include: burning, excessive scratching, repeatedly banging one's head, punching one's self or other objects, and drinking harmful substances. Additionally, many people who self harm make an effort to keep their actions a secret. While self harm is often generalized to cuts on a person's wrist, injury can occur anywhere on a person's body. A person may have cuts on their hips, bruises on their upper arms, or damage to their internal organs. Therefore, it can not be assumed that a person with no visible wounds is not inflicting harm to themselves.

Self harm has various warning signs, many of which are overlooked. Recognizing the warning signs of self injury is a crucial part of finding help for those who need it most. Take the time to educate yourself on several common signs of self harm:

1. Frequent unexplained injuries

The most obvious sign is visible injury, including cuts and burns. A person with these injuries may make excuses for how the injury occurred. For example, questions regarding cuts may be met with, "My cat scratched me." When asked about bruises, a person may simply say, "I fell." While both responses are plausible, consistent excuses should generate concern for the person's well-being.

2. Wearing long sleeves and pants in hot weather

Maybe it's a fashion statement. But more likely than not, a person is attempting to hide their injuries. Many people who self harm feel self conscious or ashamed of their injuries. They hide their wounds in order to keep their actions a secret. They understand the stigma surrounding mental health and the labels that people receive for self-harming. In their opinion, it is easier to hide their pain than to seek help. Another method of hiding injuries could be to wrap a body part in a bandage, saying that they hurt their arm, leg, etc...

3. Repetitive scratching

Constantly scratching a specific part of one's body may be done for several reasons. When cuts are healing and forming a scab, they tend to itch. A person may also be scratching as a more subtle form of self harm until they are alone. While scratching could be due to something as harmless as a mosquito bite, it could also be a sign of self injury.

4. Low self esteem

One reason that people self harm is to obtain relief from some negative state of mind. Persistent feelings of worthlessness, failure, and self-loathing should not be taken lightly. A person experiencing these feelings may suffer from self harm, depression, an eating disorder, or a combination of these and other mental health problems.

5. Signs of an underlying psychological disorder

Self harm often occurs when some form of mental illness is already present. Common psychological disorders in which people also self harm include: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder. If a person is known to have one of these disorders and displays other warning signs, there is a high chance that self injury is occurring.

6. Difficulty handling emotions

Many people use the act of self harm as a way of coping with emotional distress that is difficult to express otherwise. A person may also seem irritable, easily offended, or constantly depressed. They may have recently experienced an event that caused these negative emotions to arise.

7. Relationship problems

People also self harm as a way of dealing with problems in relationships. They may feel anger towards another or blame themselves for the issues. They may self harm as a way of feeling in control when they feel like they have no control over other situations.

8. Withdrawal and isolation

A sudden shift in a person's social interaction may be indicative of self injury. People who withdraw themselves from friends and family may feel alone and misunderstood. They may also withdraw from hobbies, receiving little pleasure from the activities they once loved.

These are just some of many warning signs of self injury. Be aware of the signs; do not ignore them. It is all too easy to turn the other cheek, but a person struggling with self harm needs help and support. I struggled with self harm on and off for several years before I was able to tell someone about it. I have had friends say, "If you hadn't told me, I would have never thought you were dealing with that." The warning signs are frequently missed, simply because nobody is looking for them. Please make an effort to look for them. Your actions could save a life.

If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with self harm, do not confront them in an accusatory manner. Be gentle and ask if they are experiencing anything that they wish to discuss. If a person confides in you and asks you not to tell, it is not in their best interest to keep their actions a secret. Go to a trusted adult, such as a school counselor, that can assist the person in finding other helpful resources.

For anyone who may currently struggle with self harm, remember that you are not alone.You are not a lesser individual because of the problems you experience. Admitting that you need help is not a sign of weakness; it is an act of strength. You are strong enough to get through these dark times. Contact one of the following hotlines and receive the help you deserve.

Self Injury Hotlines:



Cover Image Credit: Medscape

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Public Health May Be The Most Important Area To Focus On As A Society

I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua.


Medical exploration and healthcare management has thrived throughout the 21st century, with major developments in epidemiology allowing organizations such as the World Health Organization of the United Nations to track the spread of preventable diseases such as malaria and influenza across impoverished countries worldwide. I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua when I traveled there as a Brigadier with Stony Brook's Public Health Brigade, a coalition organized by Global Brigades during the Summers of 2016 and 2017.

Working alongside other university collaborations such as Boston University, I was mesmerized by the impact that improvements such as clean water through mountain pipelines and sustainable housing could do in reducing the severity of Zika virus outbreaks in the region, as accentuated by the near 8,400 villagers with access to clean water as a result of our efforts.

These experiences demonstrated to me the value of preventative measures highlighted by the public health approach — by attacking the origin of a disease and the medium through which it spreads instead of merely treating the manifestation of its symptoms, a holistic approach would allow for the eradication of a malady throughout an entire region whilst educating the local populations about the importance of proper hygiene practices and fortified infrastructure to prevent its re-eminence. It is for this reason that I feel inspired to pursue a graduate degree in Public Health as a professional, so that I can help contribute to the eradication of preventable illnesses across the globe.

A specific area of interest that I wish to target as a field of study would be the impact of sustainable housing in the eradication of illnesses such as lead poisoning through contaminated water sources. My own experience in this particular aspect of Public Health Administration as a Brigadier with Stony Brook Public Health Brigade showed me the importance of secure infrastructure in the reduction of preventable diseases as an especially pertinent area of community health in the United States, highlighted by the water toxicity crisis in Flint, Michigan.

A recent study released by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at Hurley Medical Center noted an uptick in the blood-lead concentration of Flint Children from 2.4% to 4.9% after changing their water source, with spikes as high as 10.6% in correlation with elevated levels of lead in Flint water. These elevated blood-lead concentrations put these children at higher risk for lead poisoning, characterized by reduced growth rate and learning difficulties. Purification of the available water sources throughout the region would be a comprehensive long-term solution to reducing elevated blood-lead levels amongst Flint residents.

My goals after my master's degree in public health would be to pursue a medical education and become a doctor, or go into Healthcare Administration and eventually work with the WHO of the UN to establish a more easily accessible Healthcare system across various countries to increase the number of people in impoverished areas that can be reached by doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners. I feel that a proper understanding of public health would, therefore, be essential to establishing my career in service to humanity.

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